WASHINGTON — A conference dedicated to the future of the conservative movement turned into an ode to Donald Trump as speakers declared their fealty to the former president and attendees posed for selfies with a golden statue of his likeness. As the Republican Party grapples with deep divisions over the extent to which it should embrace Trump after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress, those gathered at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday made clear they are not ready to move on from the former president — or from his baseless charges that the November election was rigged against him. “Donald J. Trump ain’t going anywhere,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of several potential 2024 presidential contenders who spoke at the event, being held this year in Orlando to bypass COVID-19 restrictions. Trump on Sunday will be making his first post-presidential appearance at the conference, and aides say he will use the speech to reassert his power. The program underscored the split raging within the GOP, as many establishment voices argue the party must move on from Trump to win back the suburban voters who abandoned them in November, putting President Joe Biden in the White House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others worry Trump will undermine the party’s political future if he and his conspiracy theories continue to dominate Republican politics. But at the conference, speakers continued to fan disinformation and conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, with panels dedicated to amplifying false claims of mass voter fraud that have been dismissed by the courts, state election officials and Trump’s own administration. Indeed, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., another potential 2024 hopeful, drew among the loudest applause and a standing ovation when he bragged about challenging the election certification on Jan. 6 despite the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters trying to halt the process. “I thought it was an important stand to take," he said. Others argued the party would lose if it turned its back on Trump and alienated the working-class voters drawn to his populist message. “We cannot — we will not — go back to the days of the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who outlined a new Trumpian GOP agenda focused on restrictive immigration policies, opposition to China and limiting military engagement. “We will not win the future by trying to go back to where the Republican Party used to be,” echoed Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the fundraising committee tasked with electing Republicans to the Senate. “If we do, we will lose the working base that President Trump so animated. We’re going to lose elections across the country, and ultimately we’re going to lose our nation." Scott is dismissing pressure on him to “mediate between warring factions on the right” or “mediate the war of words between the party leaders." He has refused to take sides in the bitter ongoing fight between Trump and McConnell, who blamed Trump for inciting the deadly Capitol riot but ultimately voted to acquit him at his impeachment trial earlier this month. “I’m not going to mediate anything," he said, criticizing those who “prefer to fan the flames of a civil war on our side” as “foolish” and “ridiculous." But in speeches throughout the day, the GOP turmoil was front and centre. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., lit into Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, who has faced tremendous backlash for her vote to impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol riot. And as the program was wrapping up, Trump issued a statement endorsing Max Miller, a former staffer who has now launched a campaign challenging Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, another Republican who voted in favour of impeachment. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News Channel host and Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, offered a pointed message to those who stand in opposition to the former president, who will not arrive at the conference until Sunday but was present in spirit in the form of a large golden statue erected in a merchandise show booth, where attendees could pose for pictures with it. “We bid a farewell to the weak-kneed, the spineless and the cowards that are posing in D.C. pretending that they’re working for the people,” she said. “Let’s send them a pink slip straight from CPAC.” Trump Jr., who labeled the conference “TPAC” in honour of his father, hyped the return of his father and the “Make America Great Again” platform to the spotlight. “I imagine it will not be what we call a ‘low-energy’ speech," he said. “And I assure you that it will solidify Donald Trump and all of your feelings about the MAGA movement as the future of the Republican Party.” Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
India's conglomerate Reliance Industries has partnered with Facebook Inc, Google and fintech player Infibeam to set up a national digital payment network, Economic Times newspaper reported on Saturday, citing unnamed sources. Last year, India's central bank invited companies to forge new umbrella entities (NUEs) to create a payments network that would rival the system operated by the National Payments Council of India (NPCI), as it seeks to reduce concentration risks in the space.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 67,201 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,774,599 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,682.409 per 100,000. There were 398,071 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,441,670 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.68 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,827 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 20,285 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 38.739 per 1,000. There were 7,020 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 33,820 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,485 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 12,176 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.758 per 1,000. There were 1,670 new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 82.75 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,987 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 32,019 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 32.81 per 1,000. There were 14,700 new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were 11,760 new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.26 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 13,464 new vaccinations administered for a total of 400,540 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 46.81 per 1,000. There were 28,500 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 537,825 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 74.47 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 21,805 new vaccinations administered for a total of 643,765 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.826 per 1,000. There were 220,030 new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.27 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,409 new vaccinations administered for a total of 71,469 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 51.902 per 1,000. There were 6,100 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 108,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 4,015 new vaccinations administered for a total of 69,451 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.899 per 1,000. There were 15,210 new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 93.09 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 11,728 new vaccinations administered for a total of 207,300 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.092 per 1,000. There were 69,090 new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.39 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,490 new vaccinations administered for a total of 252,373 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 49.18 per 1,000. There were 15,491 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 323,340 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 78.05 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 15,174 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 363.615 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 80.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 19 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,276 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 187.884 per 1,000. There were 8,500 new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.44 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — While it’s tempting to compare various aspects of AstraZeneca-Oxford’s newly approved COVID-19 vaccine to others, several experts cautioned against focusing on data that is not comparable and the danger of underrating the product’s ability to curb hospitalizations and deaths.Health Canada’s long-awaited announcement Friday that a third vaccine would soon be deployed came just as the provinces faced heightened scrutiny over regional immunization plans that vary by timeline, age eligibility and priority groups.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised the boost to Canada’s pandemic arsenal would mean “more people vaccinated, and sooner," and would be key to helping contain spread.Nevertheless, Health Canada chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma acknowledged questions over how the public should evaluate trial results that show AstraZeneca has an efficacy of 62 per cent in preventing symptomatic cases. That’s compared to the 95 per cent efficacy of the country’s two other approved vaccines, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.But Sharma stressed that all three have been shown to prevent 100 per cent of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19."Each vaccine has unique characteristics and Health Canada's review has confirmed that the benefits of the viral vector-based vaccine, as with the other authorized vaccines, outweigh their potential risks," Sharma said.Several medical experts including Dr. Stephen Hwang say Canadians do not have the luxury to pick-and-choose as long as COVID-19 cases continue to rage in several hot spots and strain health-care systems.With multiple COVID-19 projections warning of a variant-fuelled third wave without tighter suppression measures, any tool that can slow the pandemic should be embraced, he argued.“It would be important for people to be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is first available in their community to them, rather than trying to hold out for a specific vaccine,” advised Hwang, who treats COVID-19 patients at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.Still, Toronto resident Maria Brum couldn’t help but question whether AstraZeneca was safe for her 79-year-old mother. The vaccine was not tested on people over the age of 65. Health Canada, however, says real-world data from countries already using the product suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups, promising an update on efficacy in the age group as more data comes in."I personally would take that one out as an option for my mom,” said Brum, who is her mother’s main caregiver."Maybe I am wrong but, I don't know, I don't see that it's more useful. I'd like to see one that has a higher percentage of (efficacy).”As for herself, Brum said she has allergies that she believes may put her at greater risk of adverse reactions and so she is unsure whether she can take any vaccine. But she’d like the option of choosing, if possible, even while acknowledging that limited supply could make that unlikely."As a Canadian, I would like to see us all have choices, regardless of age, gender, or ability,” says Brum.“I'm going to wait where I can have more choices." Such hesitancy could pose public health challenges to Canada reaching the vaccination coverage needed to build protective immunity against COVID-19, said Hwang.He noted that Germany has seen a reported preference among some for the vaccine made by Germany’s BioNTech with Pfizer, as well as a misconception that the AstraZeneca vaccine is inferior because of a lower efficacy rate.Hwang says efficacy between vaccines cannot be compared because each involved completely different trials at different time periods, in different countries, with different volunteers of different age groups and varying trial design."Until we have direct comparison studies where we give people one vaccine versus another and directly compare, it's very difficult to know for sure how it's going to pan out,” he says.Then there’s the fact Canada's initial AstraZeneca doses will be made at the Serum Institute of India, which dubs its version CoviShield, while later packages will be produced at the drug giant's own manufacturing facilities.Hwang acknowledges that could invite further scrutiny but says the Pune, India-based biotech firm has a "strong track record of producing vaccines."Sharma also stressed the similarities between the two shots Friday."For all intents and purposes they're the same vaccine," said Sharma."There are some slight differences in terms of manufacturing and the places that they are manufactured are different. The analogy is a bit like the recipe – so the recipe for the vaccine is the same, but they're manufactured in different kitchens."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Thousands of Russians, as well as some western diplomats, have marked the sixth anniversary of the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.View on euronews
(Leanne King Photography - image credit) Members of Saskatchewan's horse-racing community are devastated after the cancellation of the 2021 season at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon. They say more could have been done to save the season and that the cancellation could cause long-term damage to the sport in Saskatchewan. Horse-racing at Marquis Downs, a racetrack operated by Prairieland Park, was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. Earlier this week, the organization announced the 2021 season would be cancelled as well. The news is a heavy blow for many in the industry. Some claim Prairieland Park has been keeping them in the dark about plans for the season after a deal to lease the facility to Pan Am Horse Racing Inc. for 2021 was unsuccessful. "It seems to me that they haven't put forward the effort that one would expect from an organization that is in the business of running horse-racing and promoting agriculture," said Nicole Hein, an apprentice jockey and one of the only female jockeys in the province. Hein is spearheading a grassroots effort to raise awareness of the short- and long-term effects the cancellation will have on the horse-racing industry in Saskatchewan. She said many in the community are upset, as there's been "silence for months'' from Prairieland Park, leaving many who depend on the racetrack in limbo. Hein was one of the organizers of a small demonstration at City Hall on Friday aimed at making more people aware of the situation. She said organizers feel their voice has not been heard and that Prairieland Park needs to do more to support the sport. "They just sat silent for months and then made this decision," she said. A small group of people gathered at Saskatoon's City Hall this week to raise awareness of the cancellation of the 2021 horse-racing season at Marquis Downs. Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland Park, said the organization was still making efforts to run races in 2021 until three days before the cancellation. He said the pandemic hit Prairieland Park hard and presented issues for a potential 2021 season. He pointed to both recruitment of international jockeys — a process with extensive COVID-19 protocols — and a lack of agreement with the Saskatchewan's Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association (HPBA) representing owners and trainers as factors. "The fact is, the horsemen haven't agreed to 20 days of racing, which is a problem in itself. If they refuse to race, then we have no horses, so we're done," he said. "The bigger issue is the jockey situation. If we had an agreement with the horsemen and we could get jockeys in, we might consider this." Prairieland Park put forward an offer to run 20 days of races, but the HPBA wanted to see a 24-day season to ensure the costs of running are covered. Regier said the issue comes down to finances. "We invest large amounts of money to make it operate and there's limits as to what we can do," he said. "With the shutdown of our whole operations here, Prairieland could be losing as much as $3 million this year. So that poses a big challenge for us too. How many days are enough? What are we supposed to do? We try our best here to make it work, but there are limitations as to what we can do." He said Prairieland not having applied for permits as usual a "non-issue," saying they could have been acquired quickly if needed. We try our best here to make it work, but there are limitations as to what we can do. - Mark Reiger, CEO of Prairieland PArk Sport will suffer from cancelled seasons Eddie Esquirol, President of the Saskatchewan HPBA, said owners and trainers countered with the 24-day season because cash streams from gate admission and concessions would likely be off the table due to COVID, so they would be relying on revenue from wagering and race takes alone. "Keep in mind the care of the animals, the care of the horses, is 365 days a year," he said. He said some racetracks have had success broadcasting their globally via simulcast, which allows people in international markets to bet on live races even if physical attendance is limited. While you can wager on horse racing at Marquis Down through a smartphone app, the software is based out of Ontario, meaning some money made from Saskatchewan betters won't stay in the province, Esquirol said. He said Prairieland Park needs to invest in a global simulcast, and the marketing and planning required to make it successful. He also said he's "at a loss" as to why Prairieland Park leadership won't join the HPBA's efforts to lobby the provincial government for funding, which he said could be one avenue to saving the struggling industry. He's not sure Saskatchewan's horse-racing industry will be able to survive without provincial intervention. "There's 500 people that are affected directly and there's another 500 plus that are affected indirectly," he said. "So for Prairieland not to conduct horse racing in Saskatoon for the summer of 2021, you have many people that are either going to be forced to relocate to our neighbouring provinces or find some other form of employment in Saskatoon." Praireland has no interest in further lobbying efforts Reiger said Prairieland has invested millions in the sport of horse-racing over the years and is not interested in asking the province for money alongside the HPBA. Although Prairieland supported a petition lobbying the province for funding in the summer, he said it has no interest in continuing lobbying efforts. "That's their initiative, it's in front of the table and we'll let them talk to the government," he said, noting there wouldn't be thoroughbred racing in the province at all if not for Marquis Downs. Asked about criticisms that Prairieland isn't doing enough, he said, "that's their opinion and I appreciate that." On Friday, CBC reached out to Prairieland Park with follow up questions about the 2021 horse-racing season, including questions about a global simulcast, but a response was not received by deadline. Marquis Downs is the premier horse-racing track in Saskatchewan. A news release from Prairieland Park said its revenue is derived from "trade shows, banquets, agricultural exhibitions, and the Exhibition itself," all of which have been unable to open due to COVID-19. "The effect of that has been a significant reduction in revenues. To help maintain its strong balance sheet, Prairieland Park has been forced to make many difficult decisions over the last year," the statement said. "The primary commitment is opening operations when safe to do so." Kristy Rempel, marketing manager with Praireland Park, told CKOM that the park understands the cancellation of the 2021 season "does effectively end horse-racing in the province." Esquirol said he's reached out to the province in hopes of meeting to discuss further options. He said he's yet to get a response. Hein, who wants to see horse-racing grow and thrive in Saskatoon, said leaders at Prairieland need to do their part to make sure the sport survives. "Everybody needs to pull up their bootstraps and get to work and not hide behind a desk and just decide the fate of an entire industry from your chair," she said.
The “Trump-made-me-do-it” defence is already looking like a longshot. Facing damning evidence in the deadly Capitol siege last month — including social media posts flaunting their actions — rioters are arguing in court they were following then-President Donald Trump's instructions on Jan. 6. But the legal strategy has already been shot down by at least one judge and experts believe the argument is not likely to get anyone off the hook for the insurrection where five people died, including a police officer. “This purported defence, if recognized, would undermine the rule of law because then, just like a king or a dictator, the president could dictate what’s illegal and what isn’t in this country," U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said recently in ordering pretrial detention of William Chrestman, a suspected member of the Kansas City-area chapter of the Proud Boys. “And that is not how we operate here.” Chrestman’s attorneys argued in court papers that Trump gave the mob “explicit permission and encouragement” to do what they did, providing those who obeyed him with “a viable defence against criminal liability.” “It is an astounding thing to imagine storming the United States Capitol with sticks and flags and bear spray, arrayed against armed and highly trained law enforcement. Only someone who thought they had an official endorsement would even attempt such a thing. And a Proud Boy who had been paying attention would very much believe he did,” Chrestman’s lawyers wrote. Trump was acquitted of inciting the insurrection during his second impeachment trial, where Democrats made some of the same arguments defence attorneys are making in criminal court. Some Republican lawmakers have said the better place for the accusations against Trump is in court, too. Meanwhile, prosecutors have brought charges against more than 250 people so far in the attack, including conspiracy, assault, civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. Authorities have suggested that rare sedition charges could be coming against some. Hundreds of Trump supporters were photographed and videotaped storming the Capitol and scores posted selfies inside the building on social media, so they can’t exactly argue in court they weren’t there. Blaming Trump may be the best defence they have. “What’s the better argument when you’re on videotape prancing around the Capitol with a coat rack in your hand?” said Sam Shamansky, who’s representing Dustin Thompson, an Ohio man accused of stealing a coat rack during the riot. Shamansky said his client would never have been at the Capitol on Jan. 6 if Trump hadn’t “summoned him there.” Trump, he added, engaged in a “devious yet effective plot to brainwash” supporters into believing the election was stolen, putting them in the position where they “felt the the need to defend their country at the request of the commander in chief.” “I think it fits perfectly,” he said of the defence. “The more nuanced question is: Who is going to buy it? What kind of jury panel do you need to understand that?” While experts say blaming Trump may not get their clients off the hook, it may help at sentencing when they ask the judge for leniency. “It could likely be considered a mitigating factor that this person genuinely believed they were simply following the instructions of the leader of the United States,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney in Michigan who's now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. It could also bolster any potential cases against the former president, experts say. “That defence is dead on arrival,” said Bradley Simon, a New York City white-collar criminal defence attorney and former federal prosecutor. “But I do think that these statements by defendants saying that they were led on by Trump causes a problem for him if the Justice Department or the attorney general in D.C. were to start looking at charges against him for incitement of the insurrection.” While the legal bar is high for prosecuting Trump in the Capitol siege, the former president is already facing a lawsuit from Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson that accuses him of conspiring with extremist groups to prevent Congress from certifying the election results. And more lawsuits could come. Trump spread baseless claims about the election for weeks and addressed thousands of supporters at a rally near the White House before the Capitol riot, telling them that they had gathered in Washington "to save our democracy." Later, Trump said, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” A lawyer for Jacob Chansley, the shirtless man who wore face paint and a hat with horns inside the Capitol, attached a highlighted transcript of the Trump's speech before the riot to a court filing seeking Chansley's release from custody. The defence lawyer, Albert Watkins, said the federal government is sending a “disturbingly chilling message” that Americans will be prosecuted “if they do that which the President asks them to do.” Defence lawyers have employed other strategies without better success. In one case, the judge called a defence attorney’s portrayal of the riots as mere trespassing or civil disobedience both “unpersuasive and detached from reality.” In another, a judge rejected a man’s claim that he was “duped” into joining the anti-government Oath Keepers group and participating in the attack on the Capitol. Other defendants linked to militant groups also have tried to shift blame to Trump in seeking their pretrial release from jail. An attorney for Jessica Watkins said the Oath Keepers member believed local militias would be called into action if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to stay in office. Watkins disavowed the Oath Keepers during a court hearing on Friday, saying she has been “appalled” by fellow members of the far-right militia. “However misguided, her intentions were not in any way related to an intention to overthrow the government, but to support what she believed to be the lawful government,” her lawyer wrote. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Dominic Pezzola, another suspected Proud Boy, said he “acted out of the delusional belief that he was a ‘patriot’ protecting his country." Defence attorney Jonathan Zucker described Pezzola as “one of millions of Americans who were misled by the President's deception.” “Many of those who heeded his call will be spending substantial portions if not the remainder of their lives in prison as a consequence," he wrote. “Meanwhile Donald Trump resumes his life of luxury and privilege." Michael Kunzelman And Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press
New numbers on the state of the Great Lakes shows a rise in water temperatures for winter 2021, including for Lake Huron. Environmental experts in the Georgian Bay area say the warming of Lake Huron can have significant effects on the weather, environment and wildlife. The latest data from the Great Lakes Environment Research Laboratory (GLERL) shows Lake Huron's water volume temperature sitting at 4.3 C for Feb. 5. That's compared to this time last year, when the water temperature was at 3.9 C, and the year before, at 3.2 C. David Bywater, a conservation program manager with Georgian Bay Biosphere Mnidoo Gamii, said GLERL's latest data is consistent with the pattern of ice loss coverage they've seen in data dating back to the 1970s. A report the Biosphere published in 2018 details a steady decline in ice coverage for Lake Huron from 1973 to 2016, using data from the Canadian Ice Service. It adds the average water temperature is increasing at a rate of 0.9 C every decade. It links both these phenomena to climate change. "It can affect weather: if you have open water instead of ice, that's going to affect the amount of precipitation that you're going to be seeing, both rain and snow," he said. This is because ice coverage prevents further evaporation. Rupert Kindersley, the Georgian Bay Association's executive director, said the warming waters are a concern for that reason: he noted the damage done to structures, docks and businesses near the Georgian Bay shoreline over the years as a result of flooding. "It's one of the features of climate change that we're getting these warmer winters and less ice cover," he said. There are also ecological impacts: according to Samantha Noganosh, a councillor with Magnetawan First Nation and lands manager, many community members have seen a decrease in the number of fish coming through Magnetawan River — which is connected to Lake Huron — over the years, meaning less yield during fishing season. Community members also use the river as a water source for recreational activities and ceremonies. "(Magnetawan River) is the lifeblood of the First Nation," said Alanna Smolarz, a species-at-risk biologist working for the First Nation. "It's an incredible resource." According to Noganosh, the First Nation is closely monitoring the situation with Lake Huron's warming waters. Bywater said the community partners with the Georgian Bay Biosphere to collect data and exchange information to aid in raising awareness. "That's part of the climate change challenge: making it local and making it meaningful when it's such a big issue," he said. Kindersley said the Georgian Bay Association is also working to inform members of the water level concerns, but added what they can do to tackle this problem is minimal. "There's not a lot we can do about climate change and global warming other than persuade people to adopt individual behaviour that will help to reduce CO2 emissions and other things," he said. Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
(Brian Chisholm/CBC News file photo - image credit) Mount Allison University's decision to launch an internal review following complaints about the personal blog of one of its professors is an "egregious" violation of academic freedom, a group dedicated to the protection of free speech and scholarship says. Earlier this week, Mount Allison announced it was conducting an internal review after receiving complaints about an associate psychology professor's blog. In a statement, the university said "serious concerns have been expressed" about posts related to systemic racism, sexual violence, gender, and colonization. "We neither support nor agree with the inappropriate comments that have been posted to this blog," the university said. On Wednesday, the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship rallied to the professor's defence. The society, a group of Canadian professors headed by philosophy professor Mark Mercer, sent a letter urging Mount Allison to rethink its decision. "The professor alluded to in the tweet is Rima Azar, associate professor of health psychology, and the comments Dr. Azar posted on her blog "Bambi's Afkar" concern matters of public and academic importance, such as freedom of expression, university policies, the existence of systemic racism in Canada and teaching in a multi-cultural society," the group said in a letter to Mount Allison. "SAFS is concerned that Mount Allison's [statement] violates Dr. Azar's academic freedom and will function to suppress discussion and inquiry" at the university. Mark Mercer, president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, says Mount Allison has "no legitimate reason" to look into Azar's postings. In an interview, Mercer said Mount Allison has "no legitimate reason" to look into Azar's postings, and said he sees its decision to do so as a response to public pressure. "It's an expression of cancel culture and it perpetuates cancel culture," Mercer said. "As soon as the investigation is called, that's an act of cancelling." Azar declined to comment on the internal review or on the society's response. Mount Allison acknowledged Friday that it has received the letter, but did not respond to questions about whether it will continue with the review. "We have no further comments at this time," communications officer Aloma Jardine said in an email. Mercer said he has not heard back from Mount Allison yet, but that he is hopeful the university will change its position and use the controversy as a "teachable moment." "When we're confronted with positions that we think are false or dangerous, we should analyze them, discuss the arguments for and against," not shut them down, he said. Mount Allison University should be using the controversy around the complaints as a teachable moment about the academic values of free speech and discussion, Mercer said. No topics should be off-limits, Mercer says Earlier this week, Jonathan Ferguson, president of Mount Allison Students' Union, said it received multiple complaints about Azar's blog. The complaints were not about any one post specifically, he said, but rather about "what this professor was saying throughout her blog … denying systemic racism in New Brunswick or in Canada, talking about BIPOC students in unkind ways, labelling Black Lives Matter a radical group — stuff that doesn't run in line with the values of our institution at all." Husoni Raymond, a St. Thomas University graduate who was mentioned in Azar's blog, tweeted: "So one Black person wins an award and that means there's no racism? Disappointing to see a professor who's still ignorant to what racism is and will be using her power within the institution to uphold racists ideologies. Racism IS in Canada. Racism IS in NB." Raymond was responding to a post by Azar in which she said, in part: "NB is NOT racist. Canada is NOT racist. We do not have 'systemic' racism or 'systemic' discrimination. We just have systemic naivety because we are a young country and because we want to save the world. "Oh, one quick question to Mr. Husoni Raymond: Upon your graduation from St. Thomas University, you have been named the 2020 recipient of the Tom McCann Memorial Trophy for your 'strong leadership and character' ... "If NB is as racist as you are claiming, would one of its prestigious universities be honouring you like that?" Mercer said no topics should be off-limits. "The point of freedom of expression on campus is to remove impediments from discussion ... so that people can say what's on their mind," he said. "So when a university says it doesn't support this view, then that's the institution saying there's a party line. And then when they say they're investigating, then they're saying there are some things that cannot be said."
(Shutterstock - image credit) A member of Parliament from Nova Scotia wants food products in Canada labelled so consumers can clearly see their impact on the environment. Jaime Battiste's private member's motion calling for a green grading system passed in the House of Commons this week. "My hope and my dream is that within, you know, the next few years, we'll be able to pick up two products at the local Walmart and Costco and we'll be able to make a choice of two products based on not only their cost, but on what the impact is on our environment," Battiste, the MP for Sydney-Victoria, told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday. Even though we're in the middle of a pandemic, the next crisis is climate change, Battiste said. The House standing committee on environment and sustainable development will now study what food labels could look like under a green grading system, among other things. Battiste said he imagines the information being displayed in a similar way to nutritional information, with products getting a grade such as A, B or C. "When we're looking at environment labelling, we're not looking at our personal health, but our environmental health," he said, "which I think is interconnected in a lot of ways." Battiste said some restaurants already include information about carbon footprint on their menus. He'd like the labels to be on Canadian-made food products as well as those from other countries, but said that will be looked at further in the study. The committee will talk with farmers, environmentalists and industry experts, he said. The grading system would take into consideration things like greenhouse gas emissions, the waste created, water used and distance travelled. The committee will also have to determine if the grading is voluntary or if companies that don't comply should face fines, Battiste said. "I think we have to hear from the experts and hear from the industries and hear from the farmers and hear from everyone before you can really make judgments like that," he said. As far as he knows, no other country has created a similar green labelling system. Jaime Battiste, the MP for Sydney-Victoria, put forward a private member's motion that was passed by the House on Feb. 24. "There are so many different labels on so many different foods, but if we had one consistent one that was used across Canada, kind of like a nutritional facts, it's pretty consistent," he said. "This is the opportunity that we have to make a difference in our day-to-day lives to ensure that we're doing our best to protect our planet." Not all MPs have the chance to put forward a private member's bill. Battiste said he was thrilled when his bill, which is called M-35 Environment Grading Label, passed this week. "I don't know if I'll ever get this opportunity again and I wanted to be able to look [my son] in the eyes when he's older and said when I had an opportunity to make a difference, I did what I could to make sure that the future generations and the next seven generations had had a fighting chance," he said. MORE TOP STORIES
Gunmen in Nigeria on Saturday released 27 teenage boys who were kidnapped from their school last week in the north-central state of Niger, while security forces continued to search for more than 300 schoolgirls abducted in a nearby state. Schools have become targets for mass kidnappings for ransom in northern Nigeria by armed groups. On Feb. 17, 27 students, three staff and 12 members of their families were abducted by an armed gang that stormed the Government Science secondary school in the Kagara district of Niger state, overwhelming the school's security detail.
Iran on Saturday condemned U.S. air strikes against Iran-backed militias in Syria, and denied responsibility for rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq that prompted Friday's strikes. Washington said its strikes on positions of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group along the Iraq border were in response to the rocket attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq.
(Greg Kolz - image credit) Student athletes at the University of Ottawa formed a new group to address BIPOC representation and equity issues in the athletics department. The Black Student-Athletes Advocacy Council (BSAAC) was started last September by two members of the women's rugby team, but membership has now extended to involve 10 other athletes from various teams. "I'm hoping to modify policies at the university, hiring practices [and] possible scholarships for black athletes. But it also is just about Black athletes having a form of leadership in university athletics that was not seen before," said Kennedy Banton-Lindsay, one of the founding members. She said the group is open to all races. "There is a diversity issue with the staff at our university— the lack of Black head coaches and Black coaches and Black sports service employees." N-word impact The council was born out of the Black Lives Matter movement and to address recent events surrounding race at the university, including the debate around the use of the N-word in classrooms. "I would say it played a big role for me as a rookie," Banton-Lindsay said of the controversy. "Instead of just kind of taking [it] as a defeat, I decided to try and make change." The council has already been involved in discussions with administration about their concerns. Just prior to the holiday break, it was invited to meet with the university's administration committee to share its concerns about racism on campus. And in February, members met with the co-chairs of the university's action committee on anti-racism and inclusion. "The Black community and BIPOC community on the university campus feels like there should be more respect toward them in general," said Yvan Mongo, who also on the new council and is captain of the men's hockey team. The group is made up of athletes from many different Gee-Gees teams. Starting to make changes He said he hasn't experienced any racism at the school, and although he generally felt included playing hockey while growing up, there were still difficult times. "I've been called the N-word on the ice, which was really, really tough," Mongo said. "I just feel as though sometimes I had a treatment that was different from other players and I couldn't explain why." When the N-word debate blew up at the school, he wanted to make a difference. "As a group, we felt like it wasn't about academic freedom at all. It was more a matter of respect … people fight so hard to keep using that word was kind of disturbing," he said "I just wish we could create an environment that is safe and enjoyable for everyone." The group has already started to make changes. Following meetings with the group, the Varsity Athletics department is now providing mandatory anti-racism training as part of the annual student-athlete orientation. A working group made up of BSAAC representatives, coaches and administrators are working on an action plan to be presented to the university's senior administration in the spring.
(Halifax Port Authority - image credit) A sliver of rocky land that has been described as an "eyesore" may be turned into a park. New land that has been created by infilling part of the Bedford Basin near the Fairview Cove Container Terminal likely will be designated for community use when the project is complete. Commuters and other travellers on the MacKay Bridge or the Bedford Highway may have noticed dumptrucks depositing material into the water over the past several years, and a growing infilled area stretching from the container terminal toward Africville Park. The Halifax Port Authority, which operates the terminal and is responsible for the infilling project, is working with the Halifax Regional Municipality's African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office and the Africville Heritage Trust to determine a future use for the land. "The intention is that we might do something that's community-based," said Lane Farguson, the port authority's spokesperson. "We don't have the final plan in place yet, but that's really the intention." Asked how the land could be used, Farguson said, "a park is certainly one of those ideas, and maybe some sort of a boardwalk as well, but until the final plans are in place and everybody's agreed to it, we really can't say a whole lot more." A spokesperson for the HRM would only say the municipality is collaborating on the future use of the area, "complementary to historic Africville and Africville Park." Juanita Peters, the executive director of the Africville Museum, declined to comment on the project until plans were firmed up. Tourboat docking a possible use During a natural resources and economic development committee meeting last October, Halifax-Needham MLA Lisa Roberts questioned Capt. Allan Gray, the port authority's president and CEO, about the infilling work. She said her constituents had called it an "eyesore." Gray said the Africville Heritage Trust, which operates the Africville Museum directly across from the infilled land, was initially concerned about the view from Africville Park being blocked, but the organization later became comfortable working with the port authority on the project. The Halifax Port Authority, Halifax Regional Municipality's African Nova Scotian Integration Office and the Africville Heritage Trust are working to determine future use for the new land. "The Africville Heritage Trust wants to use the bay-like area for some purposes," he told the committee. "They've talked about getting tour boats to be able to access there, so we're making sure any design work and infill work is compatible with those uses." Infilling project still underway The infilled land is currently owned by the port authority, a federal Crown corporation. Farguson said while the corporation is generally not allowed to sell land, it is permitted to do land swaps, land transfers or long-term leases. The infilling project, called the Fairview Cove Sequestration Facility, began in 2012. The fill is largely pyritic slate that has been removed from construction sites on the peninsula. The port authority is paid for accepting the material, but Farguson declined to say how much. The infilling project in the Bedford Basin can be seen clearly from the Africville Museum. As of the end of November 2020, about 6.3 hectares had been infilled, or an area about one-third the size of Citadel Hill. Some of that is being used for port operations. On the above and below maps, the purple area has already been infilled, and the yellow area is still in the process of being filled in. The green area would be a treed area to provide a buffer zone between the port activities and the rest of the new land. MORE TOP STORIES
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. There are 861,472 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 861,472 confirmed cases (30,516 active, 809,041 resolved, 21,915 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 3,252 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 80.29 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,886 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,984. There were 50 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 339 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 48. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.66 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,205,347 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 977 confirmed cases (290 active, 682 resolved, five deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 55.54 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 114 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 16. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 0.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 194,501 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 121 confirmed cases (seven active, 114 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 4.39 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been six new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 100,524 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,634 confirmed cases (35 active, 1,534 resolved, 65 deaths). There were 10 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 3.57 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 323,312 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,428 confirmed cases (42 active, 1,360 resolved, 26 deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 5.37 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 11 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 234,746 tests completed. _ Quebec: 286,145 confirmed cases (7,888 active, 267,885 resolved, 10,372 deaths). There were 815 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.99 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,458 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 780. There were 11 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 94 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 120.96 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,220,844 tests completed. _ Ontario: 298,569 confirmed cases (10,294 active, 281,331 resolved, 6,944 deaths). There were 1,258 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 69.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,798 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,114. There were 28 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 124 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 18. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.13 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,726,049 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 31,721 confirmed cases (1,197 active, 29,635 resolved, 889 deaths). There were 64 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 86.79 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 486 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 69. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 526,985 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 28,344 confirmed cases (1,510 active, 26,454 resolved, 380 deaths). There were 153 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 128.11 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,099 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 157. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.18 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 32.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 567,399 tests completed. _ Alberta: 132,788 confirmed cases (4,505 active, 126,406 resolved, 1,877 deaths). There were 356 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 101.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,433 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 348. There were three new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 65 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.21 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 42.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,378,626 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 79,262 confirmed cases (4,719 active, 73,188 resolved, 1,355 deaths). There were 589 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 91.67 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,427 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 490. There were seven new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 28 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.08 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,901,202 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,126 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (three active, 39 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 6.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,388 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 356 confirmed cases (26 active, 329 resolved, one deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 66.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 24 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,569 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 26, 2021. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
(© Disney/Chelsea Klette - image credit) A Saskatoon artist is joining the elite ranks of those who bring the magic of Disney to life. Denyse Klette is the first Canadian to be signed by Collectors Editions as an officially published creator of Disney fine art. "It's magical," Klette said. "My mom and dad had Sunday nights as a special evening where … they'd make us hamburgers and French fries and we'd watch The Wonderful World of Disney. So I absolutely grew up on this." Denyse Klette is a painter and sculptor based on an acerage outside of Saskatoon, Sask. The Collectors Editions is not a Disney Corporation, but it's the only independent company in the world with rights to produce and publish Disney fine art. "They have a small group of artists from around the world that they've selected and we get to design and create Disney art," Klette said. "The originals are sold in different Disney galleries and also they have reproductions done." The painter and sculptor lives on an acreage just outside of Saskatoon and has a style that combines her mediums. Klette paints an image, then sculpts around the edges to give it a 3D aspect. Denyse Klette's work combines painting with sculpture work around the edges. Klette said she is allowed to base pieces on almost any of Disney's animated works. She first produces a full-colour concept drawing on her iPad then uploads it to the Collectors Edition team. The team sends it to the Walt Disney Company, which then reviews it and makes any corrections on proportions or colours. Disney then sends it back to the Collectors Edition, which gives her the go ahead. So far she has created artwork inspired by Beauty and the Beast, Moana, Tangled, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Frozen, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch and Mulan. Denyse Klette is authorized to produce work based on animated characters from Disney. She paints the picture then adds sculpted frames for a unique piece of art. Her work is mainly on display at the Disney art gallery at the Epcot Centre in Florida, but she's allowed to sell in Canada through her website. Her originals or reproductions can also be found at galleries authorized by Collector's Editions. "It's so much fun. I get to walk into my studio and paint Mickey Mouse," Klette said. "I still do like my non-Disney, but to do Disney art, it's such a magical and close-to-the-heart experience." Klette said she has an extensive library of Disney books that she collected over the course of almost 40 years. "It really is a dream come true." Noka Aldoroty, the director of Disney fine art at Collectors Editions, said in a statement that Walt Disney's ability to inspire others to create was his greatest talent. "It amazes me that even to this day his legacy is still inspiring artists to invent new ways of reimagining and interpreting Disney stories through their own creative lens," Aldoroty said. "We saw in Denyse a truly unique point-of-view artistically, and we could not be more excited to share her talents with Disney fans and art collectors around the world." One of Denyse Klette's pieces is a Moana-inspired painting with a custom-sculpted frame. Klette's work can be found in hotels, resorts, private collections, home decor products, bags, puzzles and more. She also signed a book deal in 2016 with Macmillan Publishers for a whimsical series of adult colouring books distributed worldwide. Klette is currently working on pieces inspired by Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations and Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit) Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault says he's not expecting pushback from Facebook as he moves ahead with proposed legislation that would force the company and other global online giants to pay Canadian news agencies for the content they use. Guilbeault told CBC's The House that Facebook took a hit to its public image when it tried to head off a similar law approved this week in Australia by blocking all news from that country. Google also threatened to prevent Australian users from accessing its search engine before reaching licensing deals with publishers in that country for stories that appear on its news showcase site. "I think there's a couple of lessons that need to be learned from what just happened in Australia. The first one is that if we ever needed a reason why these companies need to be regulated, Facebook just handed it to us on a silver platter," Guilbeault said in an interview airing Saturday. "(It) just proves the point that they've been unregulated for too long. And this needs to change. And I think the second lesson I draw from all of this is that we need to act internationally. We need to find international allies and engage on this issue together, because these are very big, powerful companies." Lessons from Australia Australia is at the forefront of efforts to ensure Facebook, Google and other digital giants share the revenue they earn from linking to or lifting news content with the domestic newspapers and broadcasters creating that content. The News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code became law in Australia on Wednesday. Australia's Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Sky News this week that the talks with Facebook and Google were complex and difficult. He's since spoken about the new law to his counterparts around the world, including Canada's Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. "What's transpired in recent weeks in Australia has been very much a proxy battle for the world with major global ramifications," he said. Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison shakes hands with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea November 18, 2018. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed the issue this week during a call with Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. A readout of the call said the two agreed to continue coordinating efforts to "ensure the revenues of web giants are shared more fairly with ... the media." On Friday, Facebook announced it had reached tentative deals with three Australian news publishers. But critics say it isn't a total victory for Australia's government. The law allows those online companies to negotiate deals with Australian news companies. Only in the event that no deal is reached can the matter be referred to an independent arbitrator. The Globe and Mail reported on Friday that Facebook is prepared to negotiate licensing deals with Canadian news publishers, but the timing and details still need to be worked out. Guilbeault said he hasn't spoken with Facebook officials since the Australian law went into effect. Critics argue the government's efforts in Australia failed to protect smaller media companies and the journalists they employ, and will benefit only the largest media organizations. A 'made-in-Canada approach' Guilbeault said he doesn't agree with those who argue that Australia passed a watered-down law. He said he's aware, however, that Facebook and others should not be free to negotiate solely with Canada's largest media chains. "It's certainly something that's at the top of mind for us," he told The House. "We need to ensure ... a made-in-Canada approach to this, because we can't just cut and paste a model and import it here. Canadian media companies have been urging the government to regulate these digital companies because they're taking a larger and larger share of advertising revenue. "One thing we want to make sure is that our model will serve the bigger, the medium-sized and the smaller media organizations in Canada," Guilbeault said. Guilbeault said he has spoken to his counterparts in several other countries about the best approach. Heritage Canada also continues to talk with smaller organizations to ensure that the proposed legislation will lead to proper compensation for their content and encourage new companies to emerge. Guilbeault said he hopes to table his bill later this spring because protecting homegrown journalism is "one of the pillars of democracy" in Canada. Taking on hate speech, sexual exploitation In the meantime, he said, his department expects to introduce proposed legislation in the coming weeks to force internet service providers to take action against hate speech, sexual exploitation and other online violence. "I think Canadians are getting really, really sick and tired of some of the content that they are seeing on those platforms," he said. "They're asking government to intervene." The plan is to create a new regulator to monitor online activity, with the power to force internet providers to choose between taking down offending material within 24 hours and facing severe penalties. "So you can imagine a regulator like that having audit powers to look at what platforms are doing, ensure that compliance is happening," he said.
(Submitted by Alex Hill - image credit) Sprint car racing is a fast and dangerous sport that has been bringing together the community at Six Nations of the Grand River, about 100 kilometres southwest of Toronto, for decades. For 21-year-old Alex Hill, sprint car racing is more than a sport — it's a lifestyle. She began racing go-karts when she was nine and has been racing sprint cars since she was 14, the earliest age people are allowed to drive them. Before the pandemic, Hill would race 50 to 60 times a year in Canada and the U.S. "It keeps me busy, but if I didn't love it I wouldn't be doing it," she said. What she loves most about the sport is that it allows her to spend time with her family — not to mention the adrenaline rush she gets from driving really fast. Sprint cars are high-powered race cars that run on circular dirt tracks at speeds of over 250 km/h. The cars have wings on their hoods that increase the downforce pressure, boosting traction between the wheels and the track. Alex Hill, 21, is a sprint car racer from Six Nations of the Grand River. Kanien'kehá:ka woman hopes to bring awareness to sport Hill, who is also finishing a degree in criminal justice at California State University, is said to be the only Kanien'kehá:ka, or Mohawk, woman to compete in the American Sprint Car Series tour. "There are other women in racing, but there aren't really Indigenous women," said Hill, who notes that she's treated like any other guy on the track. "Hopefully I can bring more awareness to it." She got her start in racing through her dad, who was friends with Glenn Styres, the owner of the Ohsweken Speedway at Six Nations, which he built in 2000. "It's really a good thing that Glenn did, because I think it has brought the community together and gives them something to do and keep busy on Friday nights," said Hill. From left, Aaron Turkey, Matthew Hill, Joshua Hill, Derek Miller and Glenn Styres, with Alex Hill, front, are sprint car racers from Six Nations of the Grand River. They're part of a docuseries coming to APTN this spring called Friday Night Thunder that follows Indigenous sprint car drivers and their families at the Ohsweken Speedway. A childhood dream come true Up until a few years ago, Styres was also competing on the track. He was forced to retire from the sport in 2019 after injuries and multiple concussions sustained in crashes took their toll on his health. "I've been really, really passionate about racing for a long time and it's been a childhood dream to race cars and build a racetrack," he said. He was introduced to the sport through his uncle, Frankie Turkey, who used to take him to races when he was a child. Turkey was killed in a car crash at age 27, but Styres's love for the track continued to grow. Building Ohsweken Speedway's racetrack was a childhood dream come true for Glenn Styres. He said the pandemic has been hard on the speedway, which had to cancel the 2020 racing season that usually takes place from April until August. But Styres remains optimistic that when the pandemic is over, the industry will see a boom because people have been starved for sports and activities for so long. Aaron Turkey, who's also been driving sprint cars since he was 14, races on the Glenn Styres Racing team. "I've been going to the races like every Friday ever since I can remember," he said. For Turkey, the speedway is an important part of the community, one he also has a family connection with — Frankie Turkey was his grandfather. "You get to see a lot of people, make a lot of friends and have a good time," said Turkey. "Everybody comes here after work, especially on a Friday night, and everybody gets to hang out, work on cars and watch racing." Sprint cars are race cars that run on circular dirt tracks at speeds of over 250 km/h. Underground sport gets docuseries showcase Derek Miller, a two-time Juno award winning musician from Six Nations of the Grand River, has been sprint car racing since 2017. "Sprint car racing is kind of a little underground thing right now," said Miller. "Hopefully it'll explode into the mainstream." Miller's grandfather used to race midget cars, which are the predecessors to sprint cars, so he says racing is in his blood. "I just have a huge need for speed," he said. His passion for racing will be showcased in a new docuseries called Friday Night Thunder that's set to air on APTN in the spring. The show, which was filmed in 2019 before the pandemic, follows Indigenous sprint car drivers and their families at the Ohsweken Speedway. Miller is one of the creators of the show, which is produced by an Indigenous production company — Big Soul Productions Inc. "I was able to bring all of my worlds together," Miller said. "I was able to do the music for the show, race and make a television show."
The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Sinai Health in Toronto, said deaths that have been recorded as a result of COVID-19 only reflect those who were tested for it. "But there are going to be people who died in excess of what we normally expected, who might have been infected and never got a test and went on to die." The underlying cause of death in 92 per cent of 9,500 fatalities was recorded on medical certificates as COVID-19 in a November study by Statistics Canada. In the remaining eight per cent of cases, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other chronic conditions were most commonly found to be the underlying cause of death. Stall said while the 92 per cent figure is higher than what he expected it to be, he thinks the actual number is likely to be even larger. "I think this also speaks to the confusion people have of how to actually classify a cause of death," he said, adding those who die are rarely tested to determine if they had COVID-19. He said the better indicator of the pandemic's death toll will be excess mortality, when more deaths than were expected are recorded during a specific time period. Dr. Roger Wong, a clinical professor of geriatric medicine, said the accurate recording of deaths from COVID-19 is a challenge around the globe. The World Health Organization and medical regulatory bodies in Canada have provided guidelines on how to record COVID-19 related deaths. Wong said an incomplete or inaccurate record of mortality data can have public health implications. Scientists and researchers will get a better understanding of COVID-19 in people with long-standing health conditions by recording as many details as possible in death certificates, said Wong, who is also a vice-dean in the University of British Columbia's faculty of medicine. "It has implications, not only for COVID-19 deaths, but implications for all deaths," Wong said. He said the first line of a death certificate states the immediate reason a patient died, while the second and subsequent lines record health conditions leading to the cause of the fatality. "The immediate cause of death may not capture the underlying cause of death," he said. In patients who die from COVID-19, they could have also suffered from acute respiratory distress syndrome and pneumonia because the virus affects the lungs, he said, giving an example. In those cases, the first line would list respiratory syndrome as the cause of death, and the second and third lines would say what led to it, which could be pneumonia and COVID-19 respectively, Wong said. It is important to note what caused the pneumonia, he said, adding in a number of cases it could be COVID-19. Long-standing illnesses or comorbidities, such as diabetes, heart or kidney disease, also complicate how deaths are recorded, Wong said, as those patients are at higher risk of infection. "COVID-19 should be recorded as an underlying cause of death, not so much as a concurrent health condition that happened to be there," Wong explained. Stall used cardiopulmonary arrest as another example of fatalities that don't always list COVID-19 as a factor. "Well, everyone dies of cardiopulmonary arrest, because everyone dies when their heart stops beating and the lungs stop breathing. That's not a cause of death. That's the mechanism of death," Stall said. "The cause of death is COVID-19, and ultimately all events lead to cardiopulmonary arrest but that's a common example that I'll sometimes see as a cause of death when it certainly is not the cause." There needs to be better education and "a bit more" quality control in how deaths are recorded, he said. "It's not something we learn a ton about in medical school or something that's given a lot of attention and consideration by individuals who are often in a rush to do it so the body can be released to the morgue or funeral home." The StatCan study said international guidelines are followed to record COVID-19 as the cause of death where the disease "caused, or is assumed to have caused, or contributed to death." Stall said accurately recording deaths helps stamp out misinformation about the pandemic as well as gauging how the country has been affected by it. "We are looking at the picture and the complete scope of what COVID-19 has done to our population in our country," Stall said. "And in order to look after the living, you need to count the dead." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2021 Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press - image credit) A predicted warmer than average spring and the continued rollout of vaccines bodes well for COVID-19 case counts to drop in the coming months, experts say. But doctors are quick to add that comes with the caveat of continued stringent adherence to public health advice over the next few weeks and beyond so variants of the novel coronavirus don't rapidly spread in Ontario, overwhelming the health-care system. "If we are very careful, we can imagine a much better summer, and a better summer is the payoff from the stay at home order and the vaccinations. But if we let up, we will with little doubt lose the gains that we've worked so hard for," said Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table at a news conference Thursday. "A better summer is in sight if we work for it now." No matter the year, Canadians hope for a mild spring ushering in warm weather as soon as winter abates — but amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the stakes are immeasurably higher. Warmer temperatures allow people to more easily gather outdoors, where the virus is less of a threat. Case counts throughout Ontario dropped significantly last summer, only to rise to new heights through the fall and winter. That's why it's welcome news that Environment Canada's models are suggesting it's going to be a warmer and milder than normal March this year. "March, April [and] May are all looking like warmer than normal," the federal agency's senior climatologist David Phillips told CBC News. Still, this is Canada — so people should expect some yo-yoing between decent and sludgy weather in the coming weeks, Phillips added. An 'even better and more open' summer Though he'd struck a very sombre tone in recent news conferences when laying out modelling projections, Brown said Thursday that the coming summer could be "even better and more open than last summer." He based that prediction on a variety of factors, such as the combination of vaccination and public health measures that have helped reduce virus transmission. More time outside in warmer weather with less time in enclosed spaces should only help break transmission of the disease even more. "Looking at historical models, like the 1918 influenza pandemic, we believe that the introduction of vaccination [and] the effective use of public health measures may mean that we're both able to control spread more, but also [establish] immunity in a much more safe and reliable way than in previous pandemics, where we truly had to rely on the spread of infection alone," Brown said. Though the province's vaccine rollout has been criticized, health experts say vaccination should somewhat mitigate COVID-19 caseloads this summer. Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said if all goes well, Ontario could expect to see "at worst" similar COVID-19 case counts as the province saw last summer. "But we'll probably see an even better situation because many of us now have immune experience with [the virus] … either because we've actually been infected, or increasingly because we've been vaccinated," Fisman said. "That's going to make whatever happened last summer happen to a lesser degree because many of us are protected." Avoiding a 3rd wave Officials hailed Health Canada's approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday as a "huge deal" for the province's immunization effort. According to Friday's figures, 258,014 people have received both doses of a vaccine. After almost a year of disruption, Fisman says we can now "see the finish line" for the pandemic in Canada — but with a minefield of variants of concern that are thought to be more transmissible in the way. "We just need to pick our way carefully through the minefield for these next few weeks, so we don't have another wave," he said. Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the province's Science Advisory Table, similarly warned that people have to be vigilant about the coronavirus variants over the next few weeks. He said that will have to happen before anyone is able to reap any benefits in the summer months. "What we now need to do is stick to the playbooks much more stringently than before," Juni said. "Do this now a bit longer and try to keep the numbers low. They're still quite high."